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Epidemic levels of vitamin D deficiency in elite athletes are easily remedied

Seventy percent of Dutch elite athletes have too little vitamin D in their blood, write Dutch nutritionists in an article published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The shortage can easily be boosted by supplementing with 2200 units of vitamin D3. That's the same as 55 micrograms of vitamin D3, which will bring the vitamin D status up to a sufficiently high level after just three months.

The researchers measured the concentration of vitamin D in 128 Dutch elite athletes aged between 18 and 32. Seventy percent of them had a concentration that was deficient or insufficient.

The seventy percent of the athletes were given a vitamin D3 supplement of 400, 1100 or 2200 IU (international units) every day for a year. The supplement was produced by DSM, which funded the study together with the Dutch Olympic Committee*Dutch Sports Federation (NOC*NSF). During the year of supplementation the researchers measured the amount of vitamin D in the athletes' blood every three months.

There was no relationship between the amount of vitamin D in the athletes' food and the concentration of vitamin D in their blood.

The vitamin D level rose in all of the athletes during the summer. However, the increase was greatest in the athletes that took 2200 IU of the vitamin D3 supplement.

Epidemic levels of vitamin D deficiency in elite athletes are easily remedied

Epidemic levels of vitamin D deficiency in elite athletes are easily remedied

When the vitamin D concentration rose above 125 nanomoles in the athletes who were taking 1100 or 2200 IU per day, the researchers intervened and lowered the dose to 400 IU per day in order to minimise the chance of side effects.

The 125 nanomoles norm is on the cautious side. Some nutritionists believe that vitamin D only becomes dangerous at a concentration of more than 250 nanomoles.

Epidemic levels of vitamin D deficiency in elite athletes are easily remedied
The athletes who took 2200 IU of vitamin D3 daily reached a blood level of vitamin D that the researchers deemed 'sufficient' within three months. Among the athletes in the 2200 IU group who went over to 400 IU of vitamin D3 the lower dose was enough to maintain a 'sufficient' level of vitamin D in the blood for most participants.

"Vitamin D deficiency is highly prevalent among Dutch elite athletes", the researchers summarised. "Athletes with a deficient or an insufficient total 25(OH)D concentration can achieve a sufficient total 25(OH)D concentration within 3 months by taking 2200 IU/day."

"After reaching a high total 25(OH)D concentration (125nmol/l), vitamin D supplementation of 400 IU/day is adequate to maintain a sufficient total 25(OH)D concentration."

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016 Sep;70(9):1009-14.

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